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Day 3 – We were let out of our box!

Its still hot. Its only going to get worse too. I’m not used to so much humidity.

We all got to headquarters from our hotel and started our jobs. Wendy gave us some unfortunate news. Well.. It wasn’t really unfortunate. Bittersweet. Our first friend we met on this DR (job) was on her way to New Orleans to be a staffing manager. We exchanged Facebook friendships and she went on her own path of adventure.

There was still a lot of the same thing going on here. Disaster Service Technology makes a disaster operations world go ’round here. Computers need to be set up or taken down, networking issues, print errors.

It probably sounds boring, working on computers, but when you take it in a disaster response perspective, it wakes you up. It becomes more urgent than convenient. It gives you the opportunity to have a positive effect on someone who is afflicted with the negativity of tragedy. If you’re an IT-guy and still feel used and abused after that little pep talk, you need to join the Red Cross.

Finally, today we got a new opportunity. It can get kinda boring behind a desk. So when you get a chance to do field operations… You take it. Let me out of my cage and let me go wild!

Noel and I were requested to respond to the warehouse and install a work laptop for the logistics team. It was an easy service call, and we went about our way.

The Celtic Media Centre of Baton Rouge graciously opened up 2 of their studio lots for the American Red Cross to open up Staff Shelters. Celtic Media Centre is known for movies filmed there such as the famed “Twilight”.  The studio lots are huge. Alot of volunteers and responders will be calling this place “home” for a while. People don’t understand that it’s not all hotels and rental cars. At some point there will be a moment where the responder is really roughing it. It may not happen on this deployment, but eventually, it will happen. I mean, really… it’s a disaster zone. Don’t expect the Ritz when nature gives you the pits.

Today’s lesson of deployment… education and training. The best training I’ve found, is on-the-job training. I specialize in radio communications and technical deployment strategy, but here I’m spending 2 weeks learning hardcore network management and computer program and repair. And of course, be humble. There may have been a lot learned, but there is so much more to learn.

I’ve already started to lose track of days too. I’m finding myself going back to my bed, and falling asleep immediately. A lot of these posts are being written later, because I keep falling asleep.

 

Pete Wine is on deployment in response to Isaac in Louisiana

Red Cross Employee Pete Wine (right) with Volunteer Joe Cirullo
in front of studio 4 where the movie “Twilight” was filmed.

Day 2 – Sunday, 09.02.2012

Disasters don’t know anything about dates or time. They don’t know that in some cultures, Sundays are a day of rest, or a day of deity worship for others. They just happen without any regard for life or property. However, the American Red Cross knows all about dates, times, and cultures. And regardless of it’s your day of worship, or your day of rest, or your day of disaster, we’re still there to help.

We’ve been lucky too. A national disaster response often does not have some of the amenities that currently accompany our efforts.  I was prepared to go to a shelter when I got here, and stay on a cot, or more likely the floor of a school gym, church, or warehouse for days. Instead, we were given rooms at a local Baton Rouge hotel that sustained damage during the Hurricane.  The damage is enough that people won’t pay full price for the rooms, but they opened their doors for us. I am more than thankful for this opportunity.

0700 Came quick. I’m not a day-walker. I typically work a night shift, so this is extremely difficult. A shower, shave, and a shot of vitamins, and I’m meeting Noel and Wendy in the lobby, and giving another member a ride to our Disaster Headquarters in Port Allen. It’s a short trip. About 10 miles, and yes, you have to cross the Mighty Mississippi River! It’s something I’d never done before. Granted, I’ve flown over it once, but never actually crossed it and looked at the river itself. I made an agreement with myself right then and there that when I get a day of rest down here, I’d go down and either sit or stand on the banks of the river.

0730 Marked our arrival. Wendy and our companion went their way, and Noel and I joined our team for the first time. People tell me I’m good with computers, logistics, and communications, but this team is ELITE. I’m going to learn so much from them. This is going to go far beyond honing my “Google-Fu” or knowing how many engines and ladders respond on a fire call, or what my radar programs show. This team is comprised of Information Technology, Tech Support, MacGuyver’s, Radio Specialists, and adrenaline junkies like me. “Honey… I’m home.”

Being that it’s our first time in, I don’t expect to be doing anything extremely exciting. I can only imagine that they will have us doing grunt work, or menial tasks and train us on more things as we go. Yeah… I was wrong.

To coin the locals… Noel just “Took off like a catfish being released back into the bayou.” He’s definitely at home. Our jobs were in more of a customer support capacity. WE were here to fix the computers and different things in the Headquarters. Probably sounds boring to most of you, not enough action, but trust me…. When you’re learning something new, and meeting new people, boredom is by the wayside.

Each time you help a Red Cross Volunteer or Staff Member on a national response, you can pat yourself on the back because you’re a part of the system that has helped our hard working volunteers, but also anyone they have directly helped. And helped anyone who THEY helped. It’s a circle of life, strife, and recovered win!

I am not going to write about individual team members, mainly because they may want to keep their lives private, or have some other reason. (Some people just don’t like the media.) I will respect their wishes as much as I can. I will say that I do enjoy their company. A lot of them are like-minded. Beware of Geek in groups.

Now here’s something that blew my mind. Noel comes up to me, and starts talking to me about DTP, Disaster Technology Procedures. It’s essential the FAQ or SOP book for the office, or shelter, or work. He’d already written one entire policy! IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY AND YOU REWRITE DISASTER POLICY!  He’s a real rock star. I know he’ll try to be all modest, but I’m not gonna let it happen. NOEL GREEN IS AN AWESOME MOTIVATED person at his job. He will be a manager or supervisor in no time. It happened a few more times too. That’s what you get when you send a former efficiency expert into a disaster center.

As soon as they found out that maintaining extensive notes and having a thorough nature when it comes to getting filing and inventory done, my fate was sealed for a few days at the least. Apparently the majority of the team hates inputting things into the computer and dealing with all the databases. Like I said.. I’m right at home with this task. Typing like a madman and having my own brand of fun with it. Tomorrow I’ll give you the lay of the land and each blog from here on out and also try to identify one or more groups and what they do.

We’re in an old shut down Wal-Mart. DST is set up in the back right-hand side of the building. Tables are in an L-formation, all with laptops on them. It looks to have been the old Automotive Department. Our gear is locked away in the actual garage portion of the automotive department. Boxes upon waterproof, shockproof, and shatterproof cases are stocked back here. Laptops, radios, other communications supplies, it’s all here. With us being by the garage, we can just load and go if we have to go out into the field for a mission.

Response “Groups” are like departments in an office building. Directly across from me, is Health Services. They fall under the group “Client Casework”. I was asked if I would be able to be deployed as an EMT earlier a week and a half ago, but I held out for DST. Besides, the majority of Health Services or “HS” as they will now be known are nurses! They can do so much more than I can out there.  I went to bed early. It was actually difficult to get up. I am so tired.

Stay tuned, I get my first outside assignment, Noel, Wendy, and I would spend our last hours together,  Same Red Cross Time, Same Red Cross Channel!!

Pete Wine
Guest blogger and SEPA employee

Duty Calls
Friday “Deployment Day” (August 24) started at 4:00 a.m. in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and ended
11:00 p.m. in Clearwater, FL. The convenience of our transportation system – over 1200
miles traveled, all in a day – by car, by taxi, by plane.
On Thursday, while taking granddaughter #1 to school in western Pennsylvania, I
received the call to be in Tampa, Florida on Friday. After surveying granddaughter’s
room, shopping for supplies, dining and two trips to Walmart, I start debating with
myself when to return home. My road warrior and wise granddaughter suggested that I
stay overnight and leave at 4 AM and travel the 5 hours back to Philadelphia in the wee
hours of the morning. I was hesitant, not liking to take to the road without some daylight
driving but she talked me into it, “Gramma J you need some rest before you get on the
highway”. I smile, I stay, and I am extremely glad I took her advice. After a good
day/night with my grandbaby  I arrived about 10:00 at my favorite Hampton Inn chain
to get a few hours of sleep.
At 4:20 a.m. on Friday, a little off my schedule, I start out from Uniontown to take the
journey east across Pennsylvania – a woman and my thoughts on the road in the dark with
my music. I feel rested and excited about being deployed. It takes over a half hour to
get to the Turnpike as I travel on a local road through small towns to get there. After
finally entering the turnpike I feel like I am on my way.
It’s dark and lonely driving in unfamiliar territory so early in the morning but duty calls.
I am on automatic pilot driving down the highway listing to State of Grace, my favorite
soothing world music. I realize I pass the exit for the September 11th Flight 93 Memorial
and bow my head in respect and gratitude to those who gave their lives that our nation’s
capital would be safe on that horrific day. I remember my visit to the memorial but that
is a story that I may tell on September 11th.
This trip started out with me and a couple of cars on the highway but that didn’t last for
long as I begin to realize “tractor trailers” rule the road in the wee hours of the morning.
I see trucks with unknown names and some very familiar to me in my life. With nothing
to do but drive and think I marveled at how goods are transported across our nation and
acknowledge how grateful I am to these drivers for taking over the roads, sleeping in
herds on the side of the highway and contributing to our state economy at the “The
Travelers Oasis” – the Breezewood exit.
My ears are popping as I travel the steep up and down hills on the turnpike. I drive
through four mountains along the way. As I enter the “Mighty Alleghenies” I remember
Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his soaring reference to this
mountain range. Passing through the Tuscarora, Kittatinny and Blue Mountains, all a
part of the Appalachians, I ponder how rural the land is in the middle of the state in
contrast to my urban Philadelphia.
Around Chambersburg I start to see the sun peaking through the clouds. As I travel
farther east the sun is getting higher and higher and I know I am getting closer to home. I
am mesmerized by the sun rising straight before me for miles and miles along the
highway. I wonder how many times in my lifetime I will get to watch the sun rise over
this much time. I am grateful for the experience and thanking granddaughter #1 for this
unexpected gift. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
As I look at the time the clock starts ticking louder in my head as I remember all the
things I have to accomplish to be at Chapter by 4:00 and airport for 6:05 flight. Panic is
starting to set in and I am not home yet. I decide to make a “quick” stop and move on.
Unfortunately, I know the plane won’t wait for me even if I am traveling on behalf of the
Red Cross. In my mind I start counting SEPA shirts, pants, shoes and whatever is in
going in the suitcase. Now I know I have to wash two loads of clothes, put out the trash
and recycle, visit my friend’s mom in the nursing home in Darby (now a tradition before
I travel), run errands at the bank, cash in lottery (tickets expire the end of August),
Walmart, post office, hair salon…and I have to get the family set up and pack my
suitcase and carryon bag. Finally, I am off the turnpike and safely home in 4 hours and 40
minutes. Good timing so far.
It is time to get “kitty kat” Tiger Rose prepared for my leaving. This is when I tell her I
am going to Tampa, FL today to help the people affected by the coming storm. She
suspects something may be happening when I run in the house and go straight to the
laundry room. She looks at me with those wide eyes and says “AGAIN MOM”. “You
just came home from West Virginia, went to DC and North Carolina, took my niece to
school and your leaving today? I have to talk to SEPA staff and Aunt Carol’s Mickey
and Minnie (her kitty kat SEPA cousins) and anyone who will listen about this.” I
remind Miss Tiger Rose that we talked about my volunteer duties and she is a Red Cross
brat. Tiger snuggles up and tells me to be safe and send kat meows to her. Whew!!! That
went better than I thought.
It’s now 3:00 and I call the cab per Elizabeth’s (RDCC) expert advice and expect the cab
to arrive around 3:20… timing still good. At 3:20 I get the call my cab is on the
way…3:30 no cab…panic is setting in again. After two calls to the cab company and a
short interesting conversation with the dispatcher and manager my cab arrives at 3:40.
Driver Mourad kindly apologizes for the delay (not his or my fault). We discuss my
timetable; he says East River Drive, I say Expressway. I am the customer, get my choice
and I am in trouble – gridlock on the Schuylkill. Mourad nicely reminds me who is the
expert and takes the exit onto the West River Drive as I sit humbled by his knowledge or
my lack of as the minutes tick away to my 6:05 flight.

Janice being interviewed minutes before driving to the airport to leave for her deploymen

My excellent cabbie gets me to chapter by 4:15 and I am relieved knowing that Elizabeth
has my voucher waiting at the door and Pete has checked me in and printed a boarding
pass. All I have to do is sign my papers and off I go to airport to arrive by 5:00 or so I
thought. Enter my expert PR team, Dave and Sara, who tell me that our local CBS news
station would like to do an interview. The clock is still ticking in my head but this is
Dave and Sara I like to say yes to my PR teammates.
Sign my papers but no CBS team. We start to the van were Bryan is waiting. Bryan
always helps me out at the Chapter with anything I need so I know he will get me there
on time. We wait, Sara calls, and Dave deserts as he has more stuff for the day. We are
looking at the time and now we are all in full panic mode. Should I stay or should I go?
Lucky for me Sara gets an update that the news van is close. We wait and we watch.
Finally, the van pulls up and Sara gives the cameraman the sense of urgency in getting a
quick interview. With one take and plenty of apprehension I am filmed and on my way.
As Bryan waves goodbye to the cameraman I laugh and ask him “who is really leaving
town”. Bryan and I decide that it will be close but I will have enough time to get to the
airport and if not there will an “OH NO” moment. This time there is a consensus to use
the Expressway and traffic is kind to me and flowing smoothly. Even the one lane Platt
Bridge traffic is cooperating.
I reach the airport with time to spare and I am on my way…maybe. I talk to airport
customer service gentleman who tells me to be at my gate at 5:45. I get directions and go
over to Terminal D to replace earphones I bought when I deployed to West Virginia. On
the way back to Terminal B I look at my watch, calculate I have more time than I really
do and decide to stop for my first meal of the day and take it on the plane. It is 5:40 and I
am regretting the decision. I get to the gate and no one is in the seating area but the
gatekeepers smile, look at the manifest, take my ticket, and let me on the plane.
I am on my way on US Airways 575 leaving at 6:05. The steward takes my bag and puts
it in the overhead bin above row 13. I am in row 11 with an empty bin above me.
Hmmm! Buckled up, ready and waiting and waiting and waiting. So many planes taking
off we leave at 6:50. I eat my very tasty crabcake and lament that I cannot stomach the
stinky broccoli and sticky rice. I listen to State of Grace again. My seatmate asks the
steward if there are any free crackers. Unlucky for us, he refers her to the food for sale
menu. I am still hungry so I purchase an enticing box of chocolate cookies for 3.00.
Imagine my surprise when I open the box and count 6 small cookies. My smart seatmate,
after seeing my meager amount of cookies, passed on the 5.00 crackers she expressed an
interest in when I bought my cookies. The steward is disappointed he doesn’t get
additional sale – he knows why. I can tell my seatmate is hungry so I share my cookies
with her and chat to pass the time.
As we starting our descent to the runway, I am thinking – is it my imagination or is this
plane really flying this fast coming onto the runway. Not my imagination – we are
speeding down the runway, the plane is shaking, the wind is roaring and I am holding on
wondering if this plane is ever going to slow down. It does, I exhale and we taxi
normally to the runway.
I arrive in Tampa late but very happy to be stopped on the ground. Now that the plane
has landed I look back to plan my next move to get my luggage from row 13. Already
passengers are standing and look very eager to get off the plane. I come to the sad
conclusion that I will have to wait until everyone leaves this very large tube before I can
get my luggage. Unexpectedly, a nice guy takes my bag out of the overhead container
and says I will see you in the terminal. I am puzzled but grateful. Happily I find out he is
Ken, one of our chapter Health Services responders. So glad I traveled in my SEPA shirt
today.
Next stop is the Avis car rental counter where I meet up with other volunteers from
across the country. I get a car with my SEPA partner and two other responders from
California and New Jersey. We start out to a hotel in Clearwater. All the navigation
technology states it is a short trip. One missed exit and we are almost an hour getting to
the hotel, arriving about 11:00.
Finally, my last stop – the hotel! When we get to the front desk, following Red Cross
policy, New Jersey responder and I become roommates. We grab some fruit and water
from the welcome desk and look for our room. I am hoping that this partnerships works
as I am tired and ready for sleep. After laughing about our trip from the airport and all
the water we crossed, we discuss what we like and don’t like, times for lights on/lights
off and find out we are compatible – what a relief! Finally I can lay my head on a pillow
and say good night.
300 miles in a car, 12 miles in a taxi, 1000 miles on the plane. 19 hours later I am on the
ground on DRO 710-13 ready to help the people of the state of Florida.
To be continued…

-Janice Winston
a veteran volunteer with SEPA Chapter is deployed south to assist with sheltering for those affected by Isaac

Noel Green and Pete Wine (left to right)

Day 1 – Saturday, 09.01.2012 
“Welcome to the Party”

It is of the utmost importance to take every possible precaution when packing and planning. The team I was assigned to had given us a list to go by. Of course, being the over-prepared Boy Scout, I added more things to that list.

Family is the 2nd important thing to consider when you are deploying. After my father passed away, I live with my mother and look after her. (insert the 30 year old living with Mom jokes.) I also have a pet pug dog named Molly. Needless to say, she’s going to be traumatized by this. My dog, not my mother.

I contacted my some of my close friends and requested that they check in on her periodically. We are told to plan for 2 weeks, however its possible that 3rd week could get slipped in on us if we are needed. Always make sure your own loved ones are taken care of.

It was 9:45 and time to get a move on. Yea, the flight was scheduled to leave at 1PM, but it’s a holiday weekend, and you have to get through security. I know it’s bad luck to say it, but it was too easy to get through everything. When you are heading on assignment to help people, you see generosity come out of the woodwork, even in the TSA.

Our first flight left right on time. No issues or problems. I’m a big guy, and I was concerned about seating. I have to hand it to Delta Airlines, they took amazing care of us. We must have had a heck of a tailwind too, because we made it to Atlanta almost a half hour early.

Noel put in some important calls to DSHR HQ, to find out how we were getting from New Orleans to Port Allen. I see a car rental in our future. Its about an hour and 45 minutes from NOLA to Baton Rouge according to our GPS, and that’s if roads aren’t flooded.

Up until now, it had just been Noel and I on this journey. In Atlanta at our gate, we met a nice lady named Wendy Flynn. She’s a Red Cross staffing manager from the Cape Fear Chapter, who is also heading to Port Allen. Noel and I invited her to tag along with us.

As I write this, we’re currently 80 miles north of New Orleans. The captain advised us we are making our initial decent, and will be arriving early. Twice in one day. Groovy. Noel and Wendy are catching up on a who’s who of Red Cross. I was chatting with a chill Australian tourist. I wish him a good journey….

By now, you’ve seen a couple pictures. Maybe even the one of us after we arrived. Had to rent a car, then it was on to Baton Rouge/Port Allen for check in. Louisiana greeted us with a small storm and some nice lightning. Between two weather nerds like Wendy and I (both Skywarn Spotters!), it probably looked like a scene out of “Twister”.

Cruising along I-80, we saw probably what was a fraction of the water that had been here during the storm. I can’t put into words, but I’m amazed. The Louisiana State Troopers are all over the highway holding it down. Closed roads all over the place.

I’ll be honest with you. I am not a fan of Alligators. And we did happen to see a couple along the highway in the “no-longer-low-laying” ditches. The storm pushed the marsh wildlife right up to the street. We saw street turtles and road gators. I may be a fat guy, but you’ll be impressed how quick I’m moving to get out of a gator’s way.

We got to Port Allen and checked in with our Philadelphia Director of Emergency Services, Leo Pratte! There are a bunch of us from the SEPA Chapter down here. Running into any of our team is a treat. And they are happy to see you too. The next person I ran into was SEPA – Delaware County’s DAT Leader and Logistics expert Joe Cirillo. A hug, a handshake, and a “see ya later”. He was going to a logistics meeting. I make a quick phone call to Philadelphia City DAT Leader Frank Nardo to see where he is. He’s currently busy at a MegaShelter in Gonzalez, LA. His shelter can hold up to 2,000 displaced residents. He was happy to hear Noel and I were joining the “party”.

The headquarters is also doubling as a bulk distribution center. It appears to be an old K-Mart, but it’s serving our mission. The parking lot is teeming with Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV’s) and a couple Emergency Communications trucks. I will have to examine them closer tomorrow as part of the DST.

An ERV would pull up, get loaded up, and go on their mission’s way to get much needed supplies, comfort kits, or whatever is needed to help alleviate some of the suffering of the population. A lot of these volunteers have faces that show an undying passion, however are tired from hours of serving. They push on, with one goal in mind… To help. This alone is an inspiration to us.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived to the “party”, it was time to take it down for the night, rest up, for another day of fighting the war against tragedy that has occurred to the people of this area.

I’m not quite used to the one hour time change coming from the east coast, but it is enough to mess you up on the simplest things. Noel, Wendy, and Myself will be joined by another member at 0700 hours, to report for duty at 0730.

Of course, I called to check in with my family, as did Noel, reminding ourselves of the importance even talking to them brings us.

Im salty. Im ready. Im inspired. Tonight, I sleep. Tomorrow, WE HELP.

-Pete Wine
SEPA Chapter Emergency Communications Coordinator has been deployed with SEPA Chapter AmeriCorps member and veteran volunteer Noel Green to Louisiana to assist with the Red Cross response to Isaac.

8/31/12
Hancock County, Kiln, MS

Americorp and Red Cross volunteers man a modern emergency shelter for displaced victims of hurricane Issac. As the flood waters recede back to the overflowed branches and creeks, shelter residents have been returning to their homes to pick up their daily routines. Americorp volunteers Kirstin Heininger, and Lauren Watson along with Red Cross volunteer Samuel Allen and Mike Mahn dismantle sleeping quarters and prepare equipment for storage.

This shelter won’t close until the last displaced person has been able to find alternative living arrangements. When that happens most likely the Americorp and Red Cross volunteers will move on to support shelter efforts in other flood impacted areas.

-Emery Graham
AmeriCorps

As I write this, Tropical Storm (likely soon to be Hurricane) Isaac is barreling toward Florida and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of thousands of people are potentially in harm’s way. It’s not a place most people want to be going. But right now, hundreds of Red Crossers are going there. They are headed there in advance of Isaac to help set up shelters, position equipment and supplies, and provide minor medical help and mental health counseling.

Volunteers Kay and Fred before leaving for Florida.

Volunteer Janice Winston being interviewed by a local TV station moments before leaving for Florida.

That’s what Red Crossers do. They go into places before, during, and after a natural disaster when most people are leaving. 15 people from my chapter are there now. I, however, am not one of them. I’d like to be, but I’m not and truth be told, part of me really wishes I was. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But for something like this, as part of the American Red Cross Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT), I would normally be on one of the first planes down there. Being an APAT member means being the voice and sometimes the face of the Red Cross during a national disaster, like a hurricane or tornado. I can sum it up in a DM I got over twitter from a fellow APAT member that asked the question, “Why aren’t you deploying sir?”

My answer: I’m sitting this one out, because I’m about to go on vacation. I know “boo-hoo” for me. “Poor Dave is missing a hurricane to go sit on a beach in the sun with his family.”

Again, I’m not complaining. But hear me out. I would never wish for a disaster, but what is happening in Florida is exactly what I’m trained for. It’s the most rewarding and exciting part of my job. There are about 50-60 other APAT members at the Red Cross, many of whom are in Florida now. They are great to work with. And they are already doing an amazing job. I miss being a part of that.

A Red Cross APAT member on the Weather Channel talking about preparing for and responding to Isaac.

It’s funny, today I’m sort of (but not really) complaining that my vacation was interrupting my ability to respond to a hurricane. But this time last year, I was complaining that a hurricane was interrupting my vacation.

Irene hit this very same weekend. The same weekend my vacation was supposed to begin. But unlike Isaac, Irene was striking where I live; where my Red Cross Chapter is. Not helping was not an option. I spent the first night of my vacation in a Red Cross shelter instead of walking the boardwalk eating junk food. Over the next few days, I helped my chapter and our national headquarters manage media and response in the Philly area. My vacation got delayed. I was bummed. My family was even more bummed. Mother Nature had picked an inconvenient time to show her wrath.

Same goes for this week. Any other week, I could help with the Red Cross response. But I wasn’t about to miss my vacation again. I am not about to disappoint my family again. The Red Cross will manage just fine without me.

The moral of this story is not that Dave likes to complain, though I realize it is easy to draw that conclusion. The moral is, disaster never waits for when it’s convenient. Mother Nature can choose to be angry at any moment. She can disrupt my life, your life, all our lives at the drop of a hat.

That’s why you need to be prepared. That’s why you need to have a plan for what you would do if Mother Nature was suddenly inconvenient. Don’t just assume it can wait until tomorrow. If you need help with developing that plan, go to our website, RedCrossPhilly.org. It has lots of great, free advice.

A secondary moral is to be thankful for the Red Cross and the many, many thousands of volunteers willing to have their lives interrupted on a moment’s notice to go into a potentially dangerous place, to help people they never met recover from something that’s usually far worse than just an inconvenience.

Have you ever contemplated the difficulties people face when a natural disaster strikes? Have you ever known someone who had been so moved by the scenes of a disaster that they wanted to help? With Hurricane warnings going into effect down in the Caribbean and parts of Florida bracing for Hurricane Isaac, the American Red Cross SEPA chapter is bracing to respond to Hurricane Isaac as well by sending 11 volunteers to Florida with preparation and relief efforts in mind in the event that the hurricane makes landfall.

Let’s talk about those volunteer efforts. It’s always phenomenal to see people help other people. In those moments strangers become family. Volunteers are enormously valuable during a disaster. Still, during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, there were such a vast number of people who wanted to help, that some showed up to disaster locations without an affiliation to work with or even a place to stay. This isn’t the case for Red Cross volunteers, as the Red Cross champions volunteer efforts during a disaster and makes sure every volunteer has a purpose and a place. Most of all, the Red Cross encourages organized volunteer efforts and invites you to become a Red Cross volunteer.  Here at the Red Cross SEPA Chapter and at every Red Cross chapter nationwide, volunteers who are sent to major distress sites gain experience first by volunteering with their local Red Cross chapter. The Red Cross trains individuals before they are sent out to provide assistance and the Red Cross will also make sure that their volunteers have food and lodging in anticipation of venturing to a place that may be far from home.

Disaster relief work has never been easy. The will to volunteer in itself is a vital component to becoming part of a relief effort team but there is a reason the Red Cross offers training to individuals before they set out to help. Disaster relief efforts can be demanding and necessitate lengthy hours of service. The environment, in which one works, can sometimes be in uncomfortable climates or at uncomfortable temperatures. Volunteers must be ready to engage in dialogue with people who may be in different stages of emotional distress. Volunteers must also be prepared themselves to come to a place where everything has been turned upside down after a disaster.

If you want to respond to large disasters like Katrina, Irene, or even Isaac, the Red Cross wants you and will make sure you are trained and prepared when the time comes to respond. In fact the Red Cross has a Disaster Services Human Resource (DSHR) team that evaluates individuals, making sure that they are in a fair state of health, making sure that they are properly trained and making sure that they are assigned according to their desires and strengths to serve. This is so volunteers can work in the capacity they are most comfortable. This is also because the Red Cross not only cares about the survivors they help but also the Red Cross team members who provide that vital help.

Want to become one of our heroes? You can… just click here to get started!

Our volunteers talk about leaving for Florida to help with relief efforts there.

Jabril Redmond, guest, volunteer blogger